Children in DCFS care still sleeping in offices, 2 years after governor called it ‘unacceptable’

WGN Investigates

CHICAGO — Little has changed following a WGN Investigates’ report in 2019 that highlighted children being forced to sleep in offices because the Department of Child and Family Services does not have enough space.

Following multiple reports, the first which aired in June 2019, the governor and other officials called the conditions “unacceptable.”

Two years later, WGN Investigates has obtained new pictures that shows all that’s changed is the addition of a blow-up mattress.

“DCFS has done nothing on this since you first broke this story a couple of years ago,” Cook County public guardian Charles Golbert said.

In the last six months of 2019, 54 children in DCFS care spent the night in a state office. In all of 2020, the number ballooned to 129. It has continued to happen at a similar pace this year; 52 children have had to spend at least one night in the office of DCFS or more often, a private agency.

“It’s unacceptable, Tahman, that we have kids forced to sleep in makeshift conference rooms, when we should have shelter beds available,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in 2019.

Golbert said his office has found children aren’t just sleeping in office during the first night of a domestic crisis, but sometimes longer.

“Anywhere from one to two days to one to two weeks. During this time, these kids have nothing,” Golbert said. “There’s no therapy. No counseling. No activities. No recreation. No schools or schooling. These kids sit on the air mattress on the floor and play on their phones all day and all night.”

A DCFS spokesperson reiterated the governor’s previous statement that having children sleep in offices is “unacceptable,” but added the caveat “unless no other options are available.”

“Keeping children in offices is unacceptable unless no other options are available. Finding an immediate placement for a child was more challenging during the height of the pandemic, as caregivers were hesitant to accept youth due to health and safety concerns.”

DCFS told WGN Investigates, just as they did in 2019, that the agency is working to increase the number of emergency shelter beds, residential beds and foster homes.

Read more Chicago news headlines here.

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